MASTERCHEF Finale Debriefing: Who won?


The Masterchef finale just finished airing in the East Coast half an hour ago. You can check the predictions we cast before the two-hour finale aired here and click away for the rest.

(Warning: this is a weird hybrid of a liveblog and recap. I apologize.)

The 50 guest judges with Gordon, Graham and Joe. (c) FOX

The 50 guest judges with Gordon, Graham and Joe. (c) FOX

The first episode begins with the top 3 about to compete for one of the places in the final. The contestants have to cook a menu for 50 chefs (representing the 50 states); their judges will evaluate their meals and decide who would be the first chef advancing to the finals. Needless to say, our home cooks were pretty starstruck. They aren’t alone, though, as the 6 of the Top 10 cooks are brought in as sous-chefs. How were they determined? Random draw via fortune cookies! Leslie gets Ahran and Christian; Courtney draws Daniel and Big Willie; and Elizabeth, Victoria and Jaimee.

After presenting their dishes to the guest judges – despite some drama, at least on Courtney’s part – Gordon reads the name of the first person going to the final 2 and that is… Elizabeth! Based on the technique/skill and flavor her dishes have, she feels like the right choice. Plus, is it a new personal best that she has never had to cook in a pressure test before?

Leslie Gilliams. (c) FOX

Leslie Gilliams. (c) FOX

Courtney and Leslie are now left to battle it out in a pressure test, in which they have to prepare three desserts  (a New York Cheesecake,  a Key Lime Pie and a Boston Cream Pie) in two hours. Courtney seems more composed and in her element than Leslie… yet, the stay-at-home dad has more pressure tests under his belt and works with his usual controlled and effective chaos, all that while Courtney lets her nerves get the best out of her.

Courtney’s cheesecake is deemed closer in aesthetics and flavor that the judges are looking for. Similarly, Leslie’s key lime pie is deemed superior. Therefore, it’s all down to the better Bostom cream pie: Leslie’s was better visually, but he used salt instead of sugar.

After the judges’ deliberations, the home cook facing Elizabeth in the final is… Courtney. After seven pressure tests, Leslie is going home.

So far so good! I’m definitely on board with this finale, as it was my ideal scenario. Elizabeth being there is all I wanted, if I’m being honest, and her pass to the finals earned a big clap from me.

Now, onto the second hour, aka the final two.

We start with montages. Elizabeth’s is a reminder that she was handed the last apron during the first episode. We also get her trajectory to the top, and re-visit how she made history by never losing a team challenge (and thus never cooking on a pressure challenge). Basically, it demonstrates how she became one of the contenders to beat in this competition.

Courtney’s montage reminds us of her early frontrunner status, as well as some of her stumbles (like that over-seasoned donut box that had too much salt and almost sent her home!), and how she emerged as another force to be reckoned with.

But now, back to the actual competition.  They have to cook three dishes: an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert, and each judge gets a plate.

First up, an appetizer: they have ten minutes in the pantry as well as sixty minutes to cook it.

Elizabeth Cauvel. (c) FOX

Elizabeth Cauvel. (c) FOX

Courtney seems more controlled, while Elizabeth looks like she is cracking under pressure: she leaves the plating till the last minute. I’ll admit it: Elizabeth had me on the verge of a heart attack in the last few minutes of this appetizer. I liked that she had a riskier and more interesting dish, but I really thought for a moment she wouldn’t get to plate it.

Judges’ impressions? They really like Elizabeth’s dish, even if the octopus might be slightly overcooked. Yet, it has her aggressive seasoning and the Mediterranean flavors she was going for. Courtney’s, on the other hand, makes Joe wonder whether it was too simple for the final – but despite everything, the dish packed a punch and was bold.

Judges reckon this is a really tight race. Neither are ahead of the other at this point. Exciting!

Time for the entrées! Sixty minutes to cook it, as well.

Elizabeth keeps having trouble with timing, and much like with the appetizers, she has left plating to the end… and some of her lamb seems to be a bit undercooked. (Courtney seems to be doing just fine.)

However, once they present the dishes to the judges, Courtney’s snippy impression is that her competitor’s lamb looks raw instead of medium rare. As Elizabeth says, this is on.

Judges’ impressions? Joe’s lamb is undercooked and he’s let down by that; Gordon and Graham loved it both visually and flavor-wise. Courtney’s turn! According to Graham, Courtney’s duck is delicious and one of the best things she’s ever presented to them; Joe thought she nailed it – ditto Gordon, who finds it to be ambitious.

Judges want to focus on the whole menu, but are really liking everything thus far. They think both entrées surpassed expectations. We’re again reminded of how close this is.

Time for the desserts! The final sixty minutes are here… and they’re going to change one of the ladies’ lives.

Courtney Lapresi. Courtesy: FOX

Courtney Lapresi. (c) FOX

Both cooks are struggling with their desserts: Courtney feels like her dish will look like it’s missing something, whereas Elizabeth’s cake is slightly undercooked in the middle. Yet, both cooks seem to have some way to solve this as they go forward.

Elizabeth gets back at Courtney’s earlier comment by snarking that her dessert looks like second place.

Judges’ impressions? Courtney’s dessert was missing the aesthetics, but is brilliant intellectually and flavor-wise. However, Gordon isn’t too convinced. Elizabeth’s dessert is top-notch, and has been received really well. Judges agree it’s the dish of the night.

They concur this is close (yes, again). They discuss Elizabeth’s poor time management in the first two dishes and her more ethnic route, and compare it to Courtney’s better organization and how she didn’t have a dish that was particularly special, yet executed it well. They’ve both elevated their skill.

This was so close it was decided by the tiniest details but we have a winner!

And American’s next Masterchef is…



Going by her journey and how well she’s performed throughout the competition – as well as looking more composed tonight – I can’t be too mad at the result. Yet… I am? I am not her biggest fan; I found her to be slightly grating and annoying, so my initial reaction wasn’t favorable.

I’m glad this is going to help her, though. It was the obvious rags-to-riches story that I’m sure the judges – and the audience – swallowed whole. This is a big step forward for the rest of her life and it’s obvious she deserved this. It was a really close race, as the judges remind us, and it is true she never played safe, yet delivered when needed.

However, I was really rooting for Elizabeth, because I preferred her and her journey.  She was a very gracious runner-up, though, and I am sure she also has a career in this, should she ever leave her job (I know she, much like previous finishers, offers private dinners and classes). I don’t know if I truly understand why she lost, if she had the dish of the night (especially seeing how intelligently she solved her undercooked middle) and solid dishes, or why Courtney had the edge. Might have it been the lamb, as Elizabeth mentioned in her interview right after her loss? And the fact that Courtney’s dishes were good, even if the aesthetics in some cases weren’t there?


Anyhow, congratulations to Courtney Lapresi, a well deserving winner.

Courtney, Leslie and Elizabeth (L-R) holding the cookbook they might win if they become the next Masterchef. Courtesy: FOX

Courtney, Leslie and Elizabeth (L-R) holding the cookbook they might win if they become the next Masterchef. Courtesy: FOX

Wasn’t this a great season of Masterchef though? It had the right amount of drama and many strong competitors. I just enjoyed watching it week to week, especially during the part of the summer where I was watching seasons 2 through 4 on TV again.

Masterchef is casting for a sixth season and is a summer hit for FOX, so it’s safe to say it’ll be back to grace our screens in May 2015.


… is a young graduate student that has been way too passionate about television ever since she was little. While she insists she doesn’t have a specific type of show, they all usually have strong but flawed lady characters, some derivation of the stubborn friends-in-love/friends-to-lovers trope, and they all make her yell at her tv a lot. She just wishes she had more hours in the day so she could actually write about this.
You can usually find her on Twitter, Tumblr, and at cassidy at

4 Responses to MASTERCHEF Finale Debriefing: Who won?

  1. Nels Nels says:

    OK, I don’t even watch Masterchef, but you and Lucie convinced me to watch tonight, despite my Netflix plans.

    I gotta say that while I preferred Elizabeth’s menu overall, if I had the option of ordering, I probably would have gone with Courtney’s dessert… or at least, the finished version of it, and not the missing-meringue version that looked like a bit of a mush.

    • Cassidy says:

      Courtney had things I would have ordered… I would’ve gone for her dessert as well had it looked better, because it seemed to have so much going for it.
      That, and nailing the duck, were probably the deal breakers… but it was so close!!! I think Elizabeth’s had more risks, though. I don’t know… I’m torn. I was rooting really hard for Elizabeth, haha.

  2. Lucie Lucie says:

    Poor Nels had to hear my ranting when the results were announced! I admit it – I have a problem when it comes to reality TV; I care too much. While Courtney has shown she can cook, she just bugs me. From the tiny, girly whisper voice when speaking to the judges, to the ridiculous impractical shoes in the kitchen, to her general cattiness. I know Elizabeth had her moments too and it’s reality TV so no doubt there was some prompting from producers for drama but I just didn’t like her. But I knew she was going to win a few episodes ago when they started asking her about her family and kid brother out of nowhere and then had said kid brother appear in the next episode.

    I also don’t understand how Leslie mistook salt for sugar in one cake but not the others. And his cake, visually, looks perfect. I don’t know if a cake could rise like that if salt was used instead of sugar.

    I made a promise to myself a few weeks ago that if Courtney won, I’d refuse to watch this show ever again. (Yes, I can be that petty). I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see if that’s true! This was the first season that I watched MasterChef and while amusing, I am disappointed in the final result. Though after sleeping on it for a night, I’m starting to have a normal reaction to it. Good for Courtney but meh.

    • Cassidy says:

      Oh my god, all those shots of her shoes made me roll my eyes -repeatedly- this summer. There was so much about her that got on my nerves, and her peppy wardrobe was one, no matter how cute it was. I also definitely think the editing has always favored her; the fact that the family stuff you mention is a thing we got (and we didn’t really get anything on the rest) was a big red sign.

      I don’t understand how he did that, especially because it looked so good and perfect. I guess he just had a bit of it on the sponge but it was an absurd way to go out (and Courtney once made that mistake as well… and *almost* went home). He was the other contestant I wasn’t super fond of, but respected… and for a moment there, I wanted him to go through.

      Despite all my whining, I had a strong feeling this was going to happen, even if I’ve been rooting for Elizabeth’s consistency and strong flavors to win it all. The fact that, in a conference call that must have happened yesterday morning that I found before the show, the judges didn’t really mention Courtney all that much (at least, not in the article I read) but seemed to compliment the other two meant they were underplaying her or that she was out as the second runner-up… and I didn’t have the best feeling about it.

      Oh well. I’m glad for her and luckily, I’ll never see her around anymore 😛 (Save for a very possible S6 appearance that they use to promote the book… but I hope not.)

      Masterchef is fun! I can also be petty and I said many times last night that I was done… But I don’t think I can quit this.
      This season has definitely been very enjoyable, even if the winner… sigh. I don’t know if I would recommend last season wholeheartedly, but it also had some strong cooks, an amazing winner… and an obvious villain that was a terrible, terrible person and might have soured an otherwise strong season.

      (Sorry for the novel!)

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